July 30, 2019

Thinking About the Cross-Bearing Life




Jesus says in order to be His disciple, we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. That means we accept our own wounds and limitations as being nailed to the cross of Christ and fully surrendered to Him. Jesus completely takes on Himself all our pain and suffering. So, we completely identify our lives with Jesus - what He stands for and what He wants to accomplish through us. Our human frailties, which have caused us many painful experiences, we now fully accept and surrender to Christ. He has experienced our pain and suffering and made it His pain and suffering. Our lives are made fully complete through faith in Jesus - and in Him alone. 

In identifying with the crucified Christ, we enter into the work that He finished on the cross for us - His taking upon Himself all our sins and transgressions. It was all included in His cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsakened me?" (Mt 27:46) This was the moment of our redemption. His cry upon the Cross was our cry of alienation from God. And now, by completely surrendering to Him, our cry is taken up into His cry and transformed by His resurrection. Rather than condemning ourselves for our weaknesses and making self-conscious efforts to try to be better, we surrender ourselves completely to the crucified Christ who shed His blood on the cross for us. There is no way of healing from our pain and suffering except through the love of Jesus that forgives seventy times seven and keeps no score of wrongdoings. 

The unmistakable sign of Christian disciples who have actually experienced the forgiveness of Jesus is the Spirit-given capacity to forgive their enemies. Jesus says, "Love your enemies and do good, then you will have great reward and be a child of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and to the selfish." (Lk 6:35) Jesus, the crucified Christ, is not only an example to the people of God. He is the living power and wisdom of God who empowers them to reach out hands of healing to those who have hurt them. As we more clearly hear Him pray for His murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34), He will turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. At the foot of the cross of Jesus we are all forgiven enemies of God, who are empowered by His love to extend forgiveness to others. 

In the agony of the cross Jesus said: "I know every moment of the sin, selfishness, dishonesty and degraded love that has disfigured your life. Yet I do not judge you unworthy of compassion, forgiveness and salvation. Now be like that with others. Judge no one." It's only when we claim with heartfelt conviction the love of the crucified Christ and risen Lord, that we can overcome all fear of judgement. As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, as if we are what we have, as if we are what other people think of us, we will remain filled with judgments, evaluations and condemnations. We will continue to feel the need to "put people in their place." To the extent that we embrace the truth that our core identity is not rooted in our successes nor our popularity but in the passionate, pursuing, "reckless" love of God embodied in His crucified Son - to that degree we let go of our need to judge others. We become free from the need to judge others by claiming for ourselves this foundational truth: "I am a child of God." We are loved by our heavenly Father. This is what Jesus means when He says, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged." (Mt 7:1) John says it this way, "In love there is no room for fear." (1 Jn 4:18)

The only true wisdom we have is our own experience of the love of the crucified Christ. It's our awareness that nothing - not the negative judgments of others, not our wrongful perception of ourselves, not our scandalous past, nor our fear, guilt, and self-loathing, not even death - can separate us from the love God made visible to us on the cross of Calvary. This awareness is where our true wisdom resides. There is no substitute for the gospel. It is the power and wisdom of the crucified Christ. When we are dying, we shouldn't want some trendy words given by someone for our comfort. Instead, we should want a priestly minister of God. We should want one who has struggled with his or her faith and still clings to Jesus. We should want somebody who has looked long and lovingly at the crucified Christ and experienced the healing only found in our risen Savior and Lord. 

It's the suffering Christ who "loved us and gave Himself up for us" (Eph 5:2) on the cross. The love of Jesus Christ on the cross is the divine reality. Our true lives are utterly incomprehensible except in terms of Jesus' love. Would we have remained with Mary Magdalene and John at the foot of the Cross as Jesus was murdered in the most brutal and dehumanizing way? And if we would've spoken to Mary and John of Christian life, ministry, prayer or discipleship, we would've surely spoken of Jesus nailed to the cross and now risen in glory - or not at all. We wouldn't have burdened them with our theological insights, or bored them with our ministerial successes or our gifts or anything else. We would be certain that they would've had only one question for us: Do you know Jesus? 

________________

* As a faithful Protestant, I'm coming to terms with Brennan Manning's The Signature of Jesus. I believe that many of Jesus' disciples don't have a clear understanding of the crucified Christ. I'm  thankful for clarifications made by Robin Riggs in The Lifestyle of the Cross.

December 1, 2018

Concentrating on the Cross of Christ




Oswald Chambers writes about knowing the "energy of God." He says that to know this energy we have to "brood on the tragedy of God" - the tragedy of Calvary and the meaning of Redemption.*  Instead, we have chosen to favor our praying interests in our own spiritual lives. By so doing we have lost the energy of God in our lives - the resurrection life of Jesus. Chambers goes on to say that if we pay attention to the objective Source, the Cross of Jesus Christ , the subjective energy will be ours. We lose power because we do not concentrate on the right thing. 

The effects of the Cross are salvation, sanctification, healing, wholeness of life, etc. But we are not to focus on any of these. These are not where our energy comes from. We are to focus upon and witness to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5) The proclaiming the love of Jesus will do its own work.  We are to concentrate our preaching/teaching on the Cross of Christ. And those who hear, though they may appear to not be paying any attention, will never be the same again. The Spirit of God will do His work in them, drawing them closer to God through saving faith in Jesus. 

If we talk our own talk, it's of no more importance to those who hear us than their talk is to us.  But if we talk the truth of God, we will meet it again and again. We have to concentrate on the great point of spiritual energy - the Cross. If we keep in contact with that center, where all the power lies, the energy of God will be let loose in us. He will save us, transform us, and all the effects of the Cross will be ours. But only through Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 

In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings the concentration is often put not on the Cross of Christ, but on the effects of the Cross. Such churches become weak and feeble. One reason for the feebleness is that they have forsaken this concentration of spiritual energy - the tragedy of God. They have not thought enough about the Cross of Christ and its redemptive meaning for His church.

Alas, and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sovereign die? 
Would He devote that sacred head For such a one as I?

Was it for crimes that I have done, He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut His glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died For man the creature's sin.

But drops of grief can never repay The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away, 'Tis all that I can do!

At the Cross, at the Cross, Where I first saw the light, 
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight, 
And now I am happy all the day!+

______________

* In his devotional book My Utmost for His Highest, "The Concentration of Spiritual Energy"
+ Hymn by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), "At the Cross"

October 6, 2018

Being Made New in God's Image





A main goal in life is being made new in God's image. The way to become the man God has created me to be is to be made new in His image. This happens by recognizing and celebrating God's holiness, which leads me to yearn for His holiness reflected in my life. It's a life-long realization and pursuit. And though it is the greatest of all privileges to become the man God wants me to be, it's pursuit is fraught with avoidance and excuse.

The whole idea of a holy life seems so unreal. It seems like an outdated religious ideal, made for those who have dreams of an impossible perfection or who want to appear better than they really are. We've all seen the disgraced ministers and priests in the news. It seems sometimes that we're just asking for trouble when we claim to be like Jesus! Besides, no one wants to be a marginalized prude. And on and on goes the reasons for resisting holiness. But the call of the Lord to holiness also goes on and on, as well. 

Jesus calls us to resist the usual reasons and questions we have about holiness and make up our minds to reverence and live in awe of God's holy name. In the prayer He taught us, Jesus says, "When you pray, say, 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.'" To hallow God's name goes beyond being respectful or showing reference for it. Hallowing God's name means we are transformed as we do it. It means we are being made new in God's image. In the process of hallowing His name, we become hallowed by the transforming grace of God. Sinful resistance, of course, is there, and it is strong at times. But God's grace is stronger!

I've been reading and lately from Dr. Barry L. Callen's book, The Prayer of Holiness - Hungry People. In it Dr. Callen says that sin is "insisting on doing my things my way for my own pleasure by myself." (p. 46)  That pretty well sums it up. Living in sin defies God and leads to self destruction. It's the opposite of what God intends for me. I am created by God to live in loving relationship with Him, with my spouse and with others. If I focus on myself and my pleasure, instead of looking to Jesus and seeking God's will for my life, then I destroy the hope of having a future worth living. It's as simple as that! 

Life isn't about me; it's about God's only Son, Jesus Christ. It's about the life He lived, the death He died on the cross, and the hope He gave us through His resurrection. Jesus is the One who sits at the right hand of the Father and comes to live with us, and in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is with us right where we are. I drop to my knees in amazement and adoration of the holy One, then rise to my feet fully embraced by that same One who has chosen to walk with me through life. I am being made new in God's image. Hallelujah! Amen!




June 18, 2018

A Pardoning God



I know God as a pardoning God. My God never let's me go. He waits for me when I wander from His love. He's like a Father waiting for His son to return to Him. (Luke 15) Wherever I wander, sometimes far and other times not so far, He's there. He is there beckoning me to come home to Him. (Psalm 139) God is there. He's there for me. He holds my spirit close to His heart. His love will never let me go. He waits for me.

I constantly pray: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy Upon Me, A Sinner." For I have sinned "against heaven and You." I don't have to sin, now, but I still make errors in judgment and mistakes in my choices. I still live in sinful flesh. So, I need a forgiving heavenly Father, whose love will not let me go and who is waiting for me - no matter what trouble I get into by my sometimes wandering ways.

My God is a pardoning God.

May 26, 2018

God Tests Us Through Difficult Decisions


Of all the decisions I've made through out the years, and many of them have been life-changing, the one to surrender to God's will for ministry has been the most difficult. I've walked that way before. I've struggled with the choices before me. I've agonized in prayer. I've reviewed all the options facing me a thousand times. And it always comes down to taking that simple step of faith, the one God has given me to at the time. God tests us! Never easy, it's all about allowing Jesus to work His will out in my life. It's all about saying "Yes" to the Lord, then acting on our faith.

About a year ago I came back to the Church of God (Anderson), the "prodigal son" coming home (from the United Methodist Church) to his roots in God's church. Such a blessing it was for me to be welcomed back into the fellowship, completely forgiven and joyfully recognized by my brothers and sisters in the faith. I've been so blessed during this time to have a pastoral visitation and discipleship teaching ministry almost immediately supplied by my home church (Shartel Church of God, Oklahoma City), as if I had never left in the first place. I am happy in the ministries I have now. 

But there remained a question in my mind - the possibility of serving another church. Having had various vocational ministries in the Church of God (Home Missionary, Senior Pastor, U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain), and still having some strength and presence of mind in this 70-year-old body to offer the Lord and His church, I had been thinking about another stint as a Senior Pastor or Interim Pastor. I make all my ministry decisions with my wife, Barbara. She has always been a main-stay in my ministry decisions. Without her, I simply wouldn't have made it at all in any ministry. So, we were thinking about it.

The decision to act on faith is what Jesus has always wanted from me. The Gospels are full of instances when Jesus marveled at the faith of those who came to Him. Time and again Jesus asked His disciples, "Where is your faith?" In every situation, and through out Jesus' life on earth, His question for us is always "And when the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" My answer is still,"Yes Lord, Yes!" Here I am! I will go wherever You want me to go and do whatever You want me to do. The further test, though, is whether or not we will actually do His will.

A time of prayer ensued after Barbara and I decided to go. Then, just as we were ready to call the realtor and put our house up for sale - to actually do what the Lord was calling us to do - He opened our mind to remember father Abraham and Isaac. God tested Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice. He bound his son, placed him on the altar, and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord stopped him from killing the boy and said, "Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son from me." (Genesis 22)

Barbara and I looked at each other and realized together that what the Lord has always wanted from us is still what He wants today. More than anything, God wants to know that we "fear" Him and will hold nothing back from following His will for our lives. That's the most difficult decision. The test, though, is whether we're willing to act on the decision. It's not until God knows that you will act, that He will give you His blessing. And I am thankful to say today that Barbara and I are blessed!


February 19, 2018

The Truth of the Historic Vision of the Church of God



Dr. Gilbert W. Stafford, a 20th century Christian theologian, preacher and teacher, asks a critical question: "Are we genuinely committed to the historic vision of what it means to be the church that is pleasing to God?"  The context in which he poses this question is as a part of the Church of God (Anderson, IN) Reformation Movement at the beginning of the 21st century, heading into a post-denominational Christian church era in America and wondering if the Movement, which is founded on the strong belief that denominations are not biblical, will be able to survive the transition. Without a denominational-organizational structure, what will prop up the Movement and assure that it will continue to exist after more than one hundred and twenty-five years? He comes to the conclusion, and rightly so, that only as the truth of its historic vision is lifted up, celebrated and lived out will the Movement continue on into the future.

What Dr. Stafford is talking about is what he calls a "visionary connectedness," which has been given to the Church of God Movement as a witness to the world and the Christian church of an expression of the one, universal church, by the power of the Holy Spirit according to the teaching of the New Testament. He makes it clear that our responsibility as a particular part of God's church is to faithfully preach, teach and practice the truth of its historic vision and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

From the beginning of the Church of God Reformation Movement, founded in the Midwest region of the United States in the early 1880s, there has been a visionary connectedness of God's people, who believe that they have been called to live out the implications of Christ's New Covenant. Theirs was a fresh commitment to be God's new people, living holy lives in a unified church. And so is our commitment! We are connected as the inheritors of a rich, religious tradition, as Bible believing disciples who are returning to Bible truth and moving ahead with a historic vision of the church. The church we see is the Church of God. It is alive, holy, one, and belongs to God.*

Despite the deadening effects of denominationalism, and the apathy of many, even in our own churches, God's church is still alive and well. The Church of God is not a human organization, but a living organism which has been brought into being by God and is alive with His living presence and power. Whatever the opposition, God's church is alive. (Mathew 16:18) 

God's church is also a holy church. It is a church which only exists in a given place as the living family of God. Holiness has always been a central conviction of the Church of God. Scripture is plain: "As He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves," and "In all things grow up into Him who the Head, that is , Christ." The Church of God is holy as its members are sanctified and grown-up in Christ.

Since we have been grafted into the living, holy body of Christ, we are one with each other in that one body. The perfect love of God unites us ALL in Jesus. The Church of God becomes impatient with Christians who refuse to accept and love each other. To walk in the way of holiness is to renounce the sin of sectism and stand together for the truth as it is in Jesus. We are free in Christ - together.

Finally, God's church belongs to God. We didn't found the Church of God; it found us. We don't choose its members; we embrace all who are members by God's choice. We don't govern it with a heavy hand; we participate in it with a humble heart. It isn't enough to rely on our past understandings and achievements. Nor is it enough to be learning from our present church leaders and counting on them to filter out all the obstacles before us. Christ, and Christ alone, is the Head of His church. God's church has always been, is now, and will always be God's church.

This is the church we see. The truth of its historic vision is the truth which has brought the Church of God into existence and will continue to guide its life. The Church of God - alive, holy, one, divinely ruled ... May God help us to be on our way, toward the goal of a holy, unified church for a dark and divided world.

___________________________

* These characteristics of the Church of God were first heard by the ministers of the General Assembly during the Anderson Campmeeting in 1993 in a sermon preached by Dr. Barry L. Callen entitled "Core Convictions of the Church of God." (I've shared the entire text of that sermon in an earlier blog post by the same title.) I was one of the ministers there that day.


December 11, 2017

A Fresh Focus on Holiness



There has never been a time in greater need of the message of holiness.* Pastors and leaders are seeking ways to revitalize their congregations, and it's not working. Churches are in decline. In my church group, Church of God (Anderson, IN), there are half as many congregations as there was twenty five years ago (in my state of Oklahoma). The power and health of churches have been drained by the continual search for a better way of doing church or newer and bigger programs. In the process our people have become ineffective and have fallen prey to the effects of the world around them. Churches are terribly in need of a clear, compelling message as their focus instead of chasing church growth methods.

Many church leaders have become hostages of various kinds of culture-driven success mentalities that are concerned more with "how" to do church instead of the more important matter of "what" the church is all about. In the process our leaders have lost the ability to lead, because they have no compelling message. Many know they've lost their leadership and long to find a message that makes a difference. More than ever, they long to have a deep understanding of God's call to holiness. They want a mission. They want a message!

The people of our churches, especially in my church group, are looking for a future without having to live in the past. They are looking for a way to get back to the blessed old Bible and the light of its word without returning to what has been, but by returning to the Source of that which has been. They need to take a walk in the woods like one young minister named Daniel S. Warner did on December 13, 1877. He wrote in his journal, "The day was mild and fair. Took a walk in the woods to commune with God. Thought much about the words of God, 'I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ... they shall be my people.'" (Jeremiah 31:31,33) Then he wrote, "Amen, LORD. I am Yours, forever. Fill me with Your presence, now. LORD, reveal Yourself in me. At Your feet I humbly bow to receive the holy seal." That day he found the core, the center, the essence of God's call. And he spent the rest of his life passing it on to others. It's the Source of our call today. That is our message. That is our mission!

People are tired of petty lines of division that create denominations and institutions. They long for a clear message that transcends differences among the followers of Jesus Christ. They want to know the unifying power of God. They want to see the awesomeness of God's holiness that moves us to oneness in the testimony of God's power. They accept diversity among Christ's followers, but they want to know that churches and leaders believe that we in the church of God are one. They want a message that is unifying, that comes from God who is the essence of unity in diversity. They want a fresh focus on holiness - the heart of the Bible for all Christians of all times ... even ours!

________________

* This post was spurred on by a 2006 document entitled "The Holiness Manifesto," written jointly by church leaders and scholars representing various Wesleyan, Holiness and Pentecostal traditions of Christianity. It can be found in the 2008 book by that name, edited by Kevin Mannoia and Don Thorsen and published by Eerdmans of Grand Rapids.


November 18, 2017

A Second Work of Grace





So the meeting came and went much like I thought it would, except with more grace and mercy than I had ever imagined possible. I gathered with brothers in Christ around the table of business and introduced myself. We were all consecrated servants of the LORD and we looked forward to what the Holy Spirit would reveal to us as we spoke the truth to one another in Jesus' name. Our heavenly Father blessed us together. We responded openly to His love and to each other.

The meeting was called by the Church Service Team of the Oklahoma Assembly of the Church of God (OKCHOG). After only five months since returning to the Church of God (Anderson, IN), I was being considered for the reinstatement of my ministerial credentials. I was a little nervous, but certain of my calling to the ordained ministry. The team was anxious to hear me relate my story. 

I began by telling of my roots in the Church of God. In 1975 I affiliated with the The Church of God movement at South Agnew Church of God in Oklahoma City. It was a very loving and accepting fellowship of God's people that I met there. The Holy Spirit was moving among us in life-changing ways as our Pastor preached full salvation through faith in Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We stood together on the authority of God's Word, holy and unified in Christ. I received there a solid grounding in the faith and a fresh start to my life as a disciple of Jesus. 

In 1977 I moved to Anderson, IN to begin seminary training for the ministry. During  my time there, I met many leaders of the Church of God movement and became convinced of my calling to the ministry and particularly to missions. I wanted to go to the foreign field, but decided to stay in the U.S. as a Home Missionary.

In 1980 I moved to Wounded Knee, SD to reestablish the Church of God mission there to the Sioux Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation. As a wide-eyed young minister, I wasn't ready for the stress and strain that mission work would bring on my family. My wife soon left and returned to her home in Florida. I tried to stay on at the mission, but could not give myself to the work there anymore. 

When I returned to Anderson with my "tail between my legs," I was certain that my life as a minister was over.  I expected the worse but received the best. After much counseling and readjustment, I took the opportunity to join the Army National Guard. After a short time, I was ordained to the ministry and got my first assignment as a unit chaplain. (It turned out to be a ministry that I truly enjoyed and that I would retire from some twenty-four years later.)

Shortly thereafter, I moved to Oklahoma City to be closer to "home." While there I did an internship at Baptist Medical Center in Clinical Pastoral Education. At the end of the training, I met my wife at a Church of God singles group meeting. We settled into married life and waited on God's will for our lives. 

We then moved to Colorado, where I would become the Pastor of two churches over a ten year period. Balancing reserve military and full-time church responsibilities was very difficult at times. But I had the energy and the work was fulfilling. It was in the Colorado Conference of the Church of God that I first experienced true comradere with my fellow ministers.

In 2001 my wife and I moved back to Oklahoma City to be closer to our families, especially the grandchildren. The congregation we had been attending was going through a split. While waiting on God's will for our lives, we decided to attend a United Methodist Church (UMC) and felt the LORD calling us to work there. When the OKCHOG asked about my decision, and pressed for me to resume my work in the Church of God, I decided to relinquish my credentials. I became a licensed minister and Local Pastor of two UMC congregations in the Oklahoma City metro during the next ten years.

It was during a particularly soul-searching and call-revisiting time in my life that I came to sense God directing me to leave the UMC and return to the Church of God.  (2 Corinthians 6:14-18 kept coming to my mind.) As in the parable of the Prodigal Son, I "came to  myself" and returned to my home in the Church of God. My Pastor was used by the LORD to forgive me for my waywardness and accept me back into the family of God. It was one of the happiest times of my life. When asked by the Credentials Team why I had left the Church of God, I confessed that it was a renegade spirit and a sense of going-it-on-my-own that caused me to forsake my Church of God roots.

So the meeting around the business table turned into a reinstatement service of my credentials at the altar of the LORD. My brothers, and fellow ministers, gathered around me and laid their hands on me. They prayed for the restoration of my ordination and for God's leading in my future ministerial endeavors. It was more grace and mercy than I had ever received before - a particularly wonderful second work of God's grace.

August 18, 2017

A Devotion on Credentials and Integrity




     By this I will know that God is for me.
In God, whose Word I praise,
in the LORD, whose Word I praise -
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
(Psalm 56:9b-11)

     ** As I prepare for credentials meetings regarding pastoral ministry with my state's ministerial assembly, these are few things on my mind. What is integrity, especially as it applies to the church and its leaders?  I share these
thoughts gleaned from the writings of John Maxwell devotionally, that they may be helpful to others as well as myself. **


     One's credibility can always be traced to one's level of integrity - one's walk before God. Since integrity is the most important ingredient of leadership, a minister must be a person of integrity. 

     A minister with integrity doesn't have divided loyalties and isn't pretending to have experienced God's call. Ministers with integrity are "whole" persons; they're single-minded in their walk before God. They have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. They judge everything in life by the same system of values. What they say, think and do is in sync.

    Integrity is the acid test of credibility. In credentialing work, that is, the work of checking a minister's credibility, integrity is the most import ingredient.  Integrity builds trust, facilitates high standards, results in a solid reputation, means living it myself first, and is a hard-won achievement.

     To be a pastoral leader, one must have followers. To have followers, one must have their confidence. To have their confidence, one must have integrity. Therefore, the number one quality of pastoral leadership is integrity.

     Every church or ministry is influenced to grow or decline by its leadership. The character of its leaders determines the character of the organization. Everything rises and falls on leadership. And the secret to rising, and not falling, is integrity.

     Pastors and leaders must live by higher standards than their followers. They can give up anything except responsibility for themselves or their organization. When the character of a leader is low, so is his or her standards.

     No minister can lead anyone further than he or she has been his or her self. There are no shortcuts to a life of integrity. When ministers fail to follow this principle, they lower their credibility.

     Clever ministers never last. Effective pastoral ministry is based, not on being clever, but on being consistent. No one can fool all the people all the time. Eventually, each of us is recognized for exactly what we are and not for what we try to appear to be.

     Delight yourself in the LORD
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit you way to the LORD;
trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
(Psalm 37:4-6)


June 18, 2017

Back Home in the Church of God



Today was the first day back home in fifteen years. For all that time I had wandered in the deadening throes of denominationalism. Never one to hold back on a challenge, I left my home church (Church of God, Anderson, IN) to see if I could make a difference in the United Methodist Church. And I found myself, like the prodigal son, in the pig sty asking, "What am I doing here? I had it so much better in my home church." So, I finally came to myself and returned home to the Church of God Movement. It was a wonderful day. There really is no place like home.

I could give many reasons for leaving the United Methodist Church, but it really came down to just one. With all the turmoil of a pending split in the denomination, I was unable to keep my focus on Jesus. The UMC has lost its focus on Jesus because it has forsaken the authority of the Bible for their own man-made rules. It has become so open and welcoming of everything in its beliefs that it no longer stands for anything. The denomination has become the sectarian gods that they have set up before them, fighting among themselves to gain power and control over a failing institution. There is really nothing left of any significance to focus on when Jesus is cut out of the picture. So, I left the United Methodist Church. I came out and separated from them. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

In God's Church there is biblical holiness and spiritual unity among God's people. In God's Church the focus is always on Jesus. In God's Church the children's song is proved true: "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."  In God's Church the Bible is the only rule of faith and Christ alone is LORD. 

So, it's back to the blessed old Bible and the light of its Word for me. It's back to an emphasis on holy living, by which God's Church comes to experience true unity. It's back to focusing on Jesus. And I've never found any church group that embodies these truths more than the Church of God Movement. It's good to be home!